When Andrew Gaffney, president of G3 Communications, took the stage on Monday morning to kick off B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange (B2BSMX) in Boston, he shared a fact that is more or less evident in the conference’s overall agenda: account-based marketing (ABM) is approaching ubiquity in the world of B2B organizations.
“What I’m hearing in talks with CMOs is that ABM is really just becoming B2B marketing,” Andrew said.
It was a fitting setup for the opening keynote that followed courtesy of Sangram Vajre, titled “ABM Is B2B: Why B2B Marketing And Sales Is Broken And How To Fix It.”
Without question, Sangram is a foremost authority on this topic. He hosts the ABM-focused #FlipMyFunnel podcast and is cofounder of Terminus, which offers a pioneering end-to-end ABM platform. In 2016 he published the seminal book Account-Based Marketing For Dummies.
At B2BSMX, he spoke about his evolving view of ABM and laid out a practical framework for operationalizing this approach in any B2B organization.
Evolution of Account-Based Marketing
It’s a preeminent buzzword in the business space these days, but Sangram has been talking about account-based marketing since before it was trendy. Dating back to 2016, when he published his first book, his positioning of ABM has progressively changed. As he recounts:
- 2016: ABM is about better acquisition
- 2017: ABM is about increasing pipeline velocity
- 2018: ABM is about facilitating account expansion
And now, in 2019? He simply says that ABM is B2B. It’s about all of the above, and beyond. It’s a business development methodology that can help any company sell to other companies more effectively, and – crucially – it’s a mechanism for achieving that most elusive of objectives: sales and marketing alignment.
“ABM is not a tool, not a tactic, but a way you can build a strategy for your organization,” Sangram explained.
Looking up and down the agenda at B2BSMX, it’s tough to disagree with his assessment. Virtually every session title relates at least tangentially to the central concepts of ABM, whether it’s cross-functional revenue, target lists, demand gen, automation, etc.
Ultimately, though, it all comes down to creating tighter coordination and focus, which is why Sangram’s functional T.E.A.M. acronym makes sense.
T.E.A.M. Work Makes ABM Work
Here’s how Sangram and Terminus chart the process for a successful ABM program:
Target: Narrow your scope and identify target companies that truly align with your offering. This focused pursuit is essential to ABM. As Seth Godin once said on the FlipMyFunnel podcast, “It’s very easy for us to think we live in this mass-market world, but we don’t. We live in a micro-market world.”
Engage: Reach and interact with these target accounts in meaningful, personalized ways. Stop prioritizing volume metrics and emphasize substance instead. As one example of this mantra in action, Sangram points to Pramata, a B2B enterprise software company that saw its website traffic drop off after pivoting to ABM, but greatly increased the quality of that traffic (while also reducing the number of tools it relied on) and lowered its cost of acquisition by 60% as a result.
Activate: The inherent disconnect in “account-based marketing”? It includes the word marketing and not sales, which can make the latter feel like a secondary consideration. But as Sangram notes, optimally activating sellers is a critical piece. When the leads are highly qualified and the nurturing is on-point, sales is primed to do what it does best.
Measure: As with any marketing or sales initiative, proper measurement is vital. Organizations adopting an ABM approach will want to bypass vanity metrics almost completely and highlight those that quantify direct impact. Among the examples cited by Sangram: time on site, velocity, penetration, deal size. He adds that it’s important for sales and marketing to be using the same scorecard and tracking the same indicators.
How do we reach the pinnacle of ABM sophistication, according to Sangram? It happens when…
- Targeting is Dynamic
- Engagement is Experiential
- Activation is Prioritized
- Measurement is on One Scorecard
The Future of ABM
“I think there won’t be ABM two years from now,” proclaimed Sangram at one point during his session. That seems like quite a statement from a guy who literally had the acronym on his shoes…
… But the sentiment makes plenty of sense. He believes that by 2021, ABM will simply be “the way companies operationalize their marketing and sales.” Which I guess is pretty much what the shoes are saying.
As I wrote here on the TopRank Marketing Blog recently, “if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.” That’s why ABM increasingly makes sense for almost any B2B company, and why the observations from Andrew and Sangram ring true. More and more, account-based marketing – or at least its fundamental underpinning – is becoming indiscernible from smart, strategic B2B marketing at large.